The Dating Scene

I’ve  commented to friends that if I ever needed to enter the dating world again I would need to be sandblasted with diamonds. But that’s another story. I digress.

I’m finishing a weekend of solo parenting. For those of you who are single parents, or stay-at-home-moms or -dads, I applaud you. I always have, but it needs to be said again: “Bravo/a.”

How does one entertain a toddler without regular backup? Play dates.

Once you have a child play dates become more common, and in some cases, more desired that nights on the town with your beloved. Meeting for coffee when wee ones are little nubbins in car seats helps stave off loneliness and encourages basic hygiene. Later, as babies start to crawl, it’s fun to take them to others’ homes for them to chew on someone elses’ toys and again, get out of the house. In the first year play dates are more about the adult in the equation – sharing adult time where you can talk about anxieties, hopes and everything in between.

And now that I have a full-fledged toddler, each minute is about how to tire her out. I’m not an over-scheduler, but think of how to get her active and entertained so that she goes down for her afternoon nap and sleeps through the night. A surefire way to get this done is through play dates.

I’m fortunate that three other women were pregnant at the same time I was. We started by meeting for tea, newly pregnant and burping into warm cups. As we got bigger we shared ideas. And we overlapped on maternity leave, meeting weekly. Since then, we still meet monthly for Birthday Club, our toddlers born six weeks apart and two of them on the same day. Each month we take a photo of the four kids, smiling as they wiggle and waggle.

Birthday Buddies, Year 1!

Birthday Buddies, Year 2!

So on this weekend I did what I knew I could to tire out said toddler and keep us entertained: I scheduled three play dates, one for each day I was home alone. Lovely mamas and their children came over and we also went out to meet a little friend. We walked, talked, the kids stared and stole from one another. Tears were shed from minor spills and injustices, but kisses were blown and little hugs shared when they parted ways. For one or two hours, I was happy and content, and so was my two-year-old partner.

Frankly, it’s the best dating scene I’ve ever been a part of.

– MD

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A Response to “Letters to My Nursing Child”

{Editor’s note: Years ago after EC’s first son, H, was born, someone was writing a book called Letters to My Nursing Child. What follows is a lovely follow-up to EC’s first post about nursing her first born.}

Dear H,

You are one year old now – I see the sparkle in your eyes of amazement with the way the world works, with chasing the balls across the floor, with watching fans spin and lights glimmer. I love you and your chubby little body, your spunky noises, and inquisitive hands and feet.

I’m thankful that you and I have been able to connect in a magical way – you grew because of me. And in so many ways I grew because of you.

I was committed to giving you as good of a start as was humanly possible – I was ready to go, full of knowledge and will, but it seems that you had some other ideas for me! Our nursing bond started off painful, and our first struggles together were over your tongue’s frenulum being too short! After we had that fixed, it was months before we had what most momma’s think of as a “normal” nursing relationship. But just a few months later, the damage that was done early on allowed for creepy crawly staph bacteria to seep in through my nipples – they liked momma’s milk as much as you did and refused to go away! Momma saw special doctors, took all kinds of special medicines with big names that I can hardly even pronounce. It hurt SO much to give you what you needed, and even more imporantly, what you wanted. And It made me hurt in my heart to think that we might have to stop because those staph wouldn’t leave.

But you loved our special time together so much it was worth all of the ickies and the ouches and the tears. I’ll never regret the months that we entered into this amazing space together – a place that transended the pain and was filled with both of our love for each other.

But finally, a moment came. None of the medicines had worked, and you, well, you became a big boy, and I knew that we were developing a new relationship, and that we both would be OK. As I write this, you are crawling across the floor, pulling your favorite toy with your teeth, and looking at me and giggling – look how strong you’ve become! I deeply miss those times together, but I know that all of our struggles only made our connection stronger. Onward we go!

– EC

Nursing Nebula

New babies bring excitement, they bring joy, and they bring feelings of love like never before. But often times, new babies bring fear, feelings of inadequacy, and feelings of hurt, sadness, and aloneness. And worst, they bring feelings of being judged by other mothers.

I dreamed that my adventure as a mother would take me to place I hadn’t been before, but I had assumed that the place would be filled with fireflies, late night conversations about the stars and the moon, and eating cheese and crackers as a pre-bedtime snack. I didn’t think that two weeks after my sweetness was born I’d be lying on the couch sobbing. And that every time my newborn needed me (aka: started moving his lips like a fish and turning his head side to side looking frantically for drops of milky goodness) I would wish to run as fast and as far as I could. I left my jogging shoes by the door, just in case.

Nursing, that loving “relationship,” started out not-so-hot for us. The little man had a short frenulum (you know, that thing that holds your tongue to the bottom of your mouth), and something that wasn’t diagnosed until weeks into his life. By then, he had learned to eat ALL WRONG, and my body was PAYING for it. Hence the running shoes.

Little Guy had his first “surgery” (OK, it was a quick two-minute procedure) three weeks into life. I was all worry, but he couldn’t have cared less. It was so fine with him that we all went out to lunch together afterward and I ate pan-noodles while he slept away. But what I had hoped was the magic cure was nothing of the sort. He had to relearn to eat, and my body needed to heal.

Months went by of more fear, more sobbing, more exhaustion. Nipple shields, lactation appointments, low-supply, engorgement, blah, blah, blah. He did eventually get it, and I thought we were sailing into a more pleasant future. Certainly, he was still colicky, temperamental and stubborn. But at least we had finally gotten a hang of this whole Eating thing.

Until the pain started again a few months later. Cracks, bleeding, serrated knives sawing off my nipples each time he ate. Lactation consultants, doctors, medications, and a dermatologist (who I still think four years later I should report given the way she treated my “problem”) later, life still sucked. And I still spent a lot of time crying and hating motherhood.

I was finally referred to a doctor who was a specialist in breastfeeding issues, and who, bless her heart, diagnosed my problem as a Staph infection. Who Knew! Apparently it is fairly uncommon, and almost rare. (Apparently I’m also predisposed to this issue as it happened again with my second child three years later).

In my case, the bottles of magic pills (5 months of them, to be exact) never completely solved the problem. But in the mean time, I got involved in MOBI (Mothers Overcoming Breastfeeding Issues) which allowed me to “meet” mothers across the country going through similar and, in most cases, even more extreme measures to feed their children.

I was so proud to be a part of such an emotionally strong and supportive group. Mothers who made different choices for more reasons than the number of items under $9.99 at IKEA, and who REALLY understood the importance of holding each other up and affirming another momma’s choices. Who saw the beauty of motherhood for what it was. Who knew it was less about what you fed your kid, how much TV you let them watch in a day, and whether or not you brought them to baby yoga or let them tear the house apart while you read a magazine – but only about Love.

They taught me that this whole momma-dom thing doesn’t come with a users manual – and even if there was one, it would be like a Choose your Own adventure, not like the one you got with your new HDTV.

Happy, Awesome Momma- filled adventures to you! May your popcorn bowls be full and your days be filled with more hugs and kisses than snotty noses and smeared peanut-butter in your hair.

EC and H

– EC

Bend It Like Baby

As previously written, like any good university-town dweller, I dutifully attended prenatal yoga classes for seven months. I really enjoyed the instructor, so while still pregnant, signed up for her Mommy and Baby yoga classes during my maternity leave.

Before C was born, I imagined us basking in the yoga glow, bonding with other mamas and babies, and showing off my pre-baby belly  (I have since noticed that my memory of body before baby automatically reduces everything by, like, 25 pounds, kind of like how when you were in high school you thought you were sooooooo big and then you look back at pictures of yourself and want to stab that flab-free thigh with rusty tines).

Chalk this pre-baby movie dream to along the lines of my Vaseline-lens vision of nursing with C.

Each week, I dutifully prepared us for our sojourn. Getting a newborn baby out of the house is a workout in itself.

Packed into the car, with extras bottles, clothes, diapers and burp cloths in tow, we then unpacked ourselves in the room, smiling at other moms and their babes. We did warm-ups, some gentle breathing and calmly looked our squirmy wormies in the eye and smiled. Approximately three minutes into this shared experience, C let out a piercing cry.

No worries, I thought. She was generally a good-natured baby. I picked her up and started walking around the room. Sure enough she’ll calm down soon and I can get back to saluting the sun.

Nope. Wails.

OK. A bottle.

Nope.

Diaper?

Nope.

Walking?

Nope.

Shooshing?

Nope.

Swaddling?

Nope.

I left the room knowing that I was starting to bother the other moms who, with their babies, were in their own swan songs of connecting and core strengthening. Us? We were in the hall for what amounted to be an $8 walk.

No worries, says the instructor. She’s still so tiny. It could be her witching hour.

The next week, the same song and dance to get us out the door. And the same cries. This time, she also graced me with projectile vomit that brought tears to my eyes at the shear amount. I drove us home, her in a new outfit that I packed and me covered in sour-smelling regurgitated food.

The next week? Louder screams.

And the next? I nudged in four minutes of warm-ups before the crying started. And so we went, me walking her around for 44 minutes, only quieting down for final relaxation and the drive home.

For six weeks I attempted to get her to have fun with me on the mat, groove on the vibes and simply let me get some exercise. And for six weeks she taught me that as big or little plans are, even for the grace of movement, some things are more important.

There we were, mama and baby, yin and yin, learning how the other one moved in a dance of anxiety that grew into this waltz of love.

– MD

More on Breastfeeding…

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the many nursing personalities of my daughter, O. It quickly occurred to me that as a nursing mom, I too have many nursing identities.

First and foremost is “it’s your fault mom.” Whatever ails my babe; fussiness, stuffy nose, sleep problems, bad skin, colic, crying, diaper rash, or anything else, it is the nursing mom’s fault. Clearly I had eaten too much dairy, wheat, citrus, chocolate, cucumbers, gluten, sugar, peppermint, soda, coffee or booze. All roads lead back to the breastfeeding mom – when I called my doctor concerned about my baby, the solution was always in the milk. I should eliminate some delicious food group or some vice that I couldn’t wait to return to after giving birth.

Next up is “low supply mom.” After worrying about my babe’s ailments and eliminating everything fun from my diet, it should’ve been no surprise to learn that my milk supply was low. Luckily O tried to help fix this by nursing endlessly making sure that I got little sleep and had no time to eat or drink enough.  To cure this supply problem, I should have gotten a sitter, taken a nap and eaten a burger. But instead I bought something, a homeopathic tea.  I wasn’t sure if this tea was working so I steeped it longer and drank more. Two things happened: my breasts almost knocked me over and I smelled faintly of pancakes.

But I had milk! When O nursed I felt nervous she might drown. After waiting for months to sleep on my stomach again, suddenly my breasts were keeping me up at night I wet shirts, bras, sheets and nursing pads. The milk left soaking in my boppy could feed a second child. I was “abundant milk mom.” My daughter has  soft, rolling baby thighs all the way down to her ankles to remind me of this long phase.

Now things have evened out. Supply and demand are finally balanced. My daughter has entered daycare so I can blame all her ailments on the fact that I work, not that I have allergens in my milk. She loves to eat and I love to feed her. The only nursing identity I have is at work when I forget some critical piece of pumping paraphernalia and become “MacGyver mom.”

ACK

Babies – Furry, Squealing and Barking

I’ve always been a dog person. We adopted our first dog, a pug, as soon as we had stable jobs and the okay from our landlord. The pug was small and cute and stubborn and despite his dubious culinary preferences, we loved and treated him like our baby. He was our baby. Four years later, we once again heard the pitter-patter of little dog feet when we brought our second dog, the mutt, into our home. Our problem child. A rescue dog, the mutt was loud and demanding and destructive to couches and kitchen floors. But he was sweet and intuitive. He nearly got us evicted, but we loved him anyway. We welcomed him into our family and set out, determined to make it work. We bought a little house, fenced in our yard.

Life with dogs was good, if sometimes aggravating and fairly expensive. The pug seemed to have a penchant for medical drama – he ate a whole onion and got doggie food poisoning, had middle-of-the-night emergency bladder surgery, had a hip repaired. The mutt, while very healthy, never really learned any manners. The dogs ruled the roost, and we let them.

And then, we were going to have a baby. A real baby.

Preparing for our baby girl’s arrival, we fought hard against the baby-product avalanche. We limited our registry, returned large and unnecessary gifts. We carefully researched the things a baby required, and made hard decisions about want versus need. We packed up anything in our house that was not a necessity, and some of the things that were: our books were sadly placed into rubber bins, but only after making meticulous card catalog-style reference charts. We eyed the monsters that ruled our house and wondered how, exactly, this was going to work.

Our little girl came home to two first-time parents, two dogs, and 825 square feet.

The first days passed, and we wondered how it would work. The mutt was louder and needier than ever. The pug was spending far too many hours in his crate. Bored with us, and with their new place at the bottom of the pecking order, they started squabbling with each other. The mutt went nuts with cabin fever, running banked turns off the walls of our tiny living room. The pug barked incessantly at us and everything from passers-by to falling leaves outside the window.

We looked at our canine babies, and suddenly, they weren’t our babies at all. They were just dogs. They looked at us and our little baby girl with offended expressions on their doggie faces that said, “We hate the new dog.”

A month flew by. Then two. We lamented how easy life would be without pets. We weighed our options.

Nearly five months in, it’s still crazy. The dogs remain needy and loud and annoying. Our little girl is growing big and strong and smart before our eyes. She amazes us every day with something new. One day, the mutt walked into the room, and she smiled and laughed. The pug will lick her feet and she’ll reach out to touch his head.

And sometimes, when our baby girl is happy and tired, the dogs are sleeping and content, and the house is quiet, we look around and realize that every person in our little family, in our little house, is within arm’s reach. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

– ALW

At a Loss

My baby girl arrived on March 15, 2009, exactly two years and five months after the loss of my first pregnancy. That first one came as a shock all the way around – shock to find out I was pregnant in the first place, and shock to find out, five days later, that I was going to miscarry. Having kids wasn’t the first thing on our minds in those days. Sure, we had been together six and a half years. We were married, we had a house, we had two dogs. We talked of kids, but that was in the future. We were having fun! We were spending our disposable income, going on trips, taking long naps on weekends.

Then, suddenly, pregnancy.

But it felt right. We couldn’t have been more excited. We knew this is what we wanted.

And then, it was over.

The next months were spent reflecting, considering, mourning. We knew what we wanted, and we set out to have our do-over. We were confident – it had happened on accident, right? How hard would it be?

The next year proved to us how hard it could be. Each month came. And went. Each month brought disappointment. And fear. Was it possible that this may never happen for us?

On our 12th month of trying, one year and two months after that first pregnancy, I was pregnant again.

I’ve always been a worrier. I’ve always feared the worst. I’ve always considered the worst case scenario and worked back from there. On an airplane, I consider everything that could go wrong. I think about the wing catching fire, the engine failing, a flock of birds, the free fall. Preventative worrying. If I consider it, if I worry about it, it won’t happen. Right?

The first weeks passed. I worried. We saw the flicker of a heartbeat. I worried. Had an ultrasound. I worried. Started our registry, planned some showers, bought our first little outfit. I worried.

I couldn’t get the pain of loss out of my head. I couldn’t get the fear out of my heart.

Halfway through, and another ultrasound. The big one. Fear was giving way to hope, to excitement. My husband was joyful, so excited, facing our future without fear. I clung to him, to his optimism.

And then. A fluke. An error on the very first cell division 20 weeks and 2 days ago. There was no chance, no hope. They tried to sooth us. Not our fault, nothing could have been done. “A biological mistake.” “Bad luck.”

Our hearts shattered, we made a choice that nobody should ever have to make.

We pulled ourselves together. We held up our heads. We told ourselves that this would not break us. We brought home a tiny urn full of ashes.

Then, two months later, two pink lines.

And again, shock. We were not ready. I was not ready. I had not picked up the pieces of my heart.

The first weeks passed. We saw the flicker of a heartbeat. Had an ultrasound. Had another. The halfway point came, and went. I soared with hope while my heart was gripped with fear. I knew early loss. I knew loss at 20 weeks. I knew I could survive those things. But at 24 weeks, 30 weeks, 37 weeks….I expected relief at each milestone and got none. I spent the last weeks of my pregnancy in a panic.

Finally, labor. She came out blue and not breathing. She recovered. I recovered.

She is beautiful and perfect and everything I hoped but nothing I expected. I am not the mom I thought I’d be. I’ve surprised myself with patience and flexibility, but feel disorganized, scattered. I don’t use the cloth diapers we bought. I couldn’t breastfeed. I am stronger than I imagined, but feel I am lacking in a million ways. I try every day to be good enough for her, to be everything that she needs and wants and deserves.

But the fear. The fear still grips me.

– ALW

ALW and Sweet Baby Girl

ALW and Sweet Baby Girl

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